Mutant Forms: The Problem of Cross-breeding in Pakistani Politics
Sun 25th Jan 2015
The people of Pakistan are faced with three mountainous problems. They face the tyranny of feudalism, comprador capitalism and imperialist domination. The majority of Pakistan’s bourgeois political parties are performing a balancing act while pursuing the interests of the classes they represent. The fact that there is not a single organisation which truly represents the aspirations of the working class and the peasantry has led our masses astray in their political struggle for social, political and economic change necessary to effect fundamental shift in the relations of ownership of means of production. The recent march into a cul de sac was manifest during the Dharna politics of both Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri.
The media and big landowners of Khyber Pakhtun Khawa, Sindh and Punjab have been promoting Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) as a party led by the “incorruptible” Imran Khan. This reminds us of Plato’s logic of having a pious king in order to reform the republic. But the problem here is that the ills of our society are a direct result of the oppressive productive relations that are a manifestation of the private ownership of the means of production by a corrupt and nepotistic ruling class. The stronghold of the feudal class in Pakistan and the neo-liberal demands of our market to be more pro-business (opening markets to multinationals, downsizing industry to favour foreign products, restructuring the economy to benefit the international finance nodes, etc.) have facilitated a compromise between the feudal and neo-liberal bourgeois classes. Tehreek e Insaf is the result of their crossbreeding. Hence we had landowners and urban petty bourgeoisie standing next to each other on the Dharna containers.
The reason why the campaign launched by PTI initially calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister (a campaign which shrank to a demand for a judicial inquiry into alleged election-rigging in 2013) did not go any further was because it would have brought the already awakened masses into the realm of class struggle. Such class struggle would generate radical demands, which this party is not willing to deliver. The campaign already had caused high expectation on a scale that surprised even Imran Khan. The fact is that most of the people supporting PTI were doing so not because of the charisma of an “incorruptible” leader at the helm of a political party that is mutant offspring of the reactionary classes. The reason most people supported it was because of deep dissatisfaction with the Nawaz Sharif government, which singularly has failed to deliver on their electoral promises. The shortage of electricity and the terrorist attacks continue apace.
The reason why Imran Khan so hastily dumped the Dharna and decided to side with the government in the name of national security was due to pressure from the feudal and the military establishment who were scared of the consequences of any further radicalisation of the working class and the peasantry.
Nawaz Sharif is leading one section of big bourgeoisie against another section of big bourgeois that has come into being as a direct result of the intervention of the military in banking, property, industry and farms, i.e. the “Military Everything Complex”. This has forced Nawaz Sharif to juggle his politics to keep the military from taking full control of the state and to provide a breathing space for the big industrialists to keep raking in the profits.
The Pakistan People’s Party also is a mutant between feudalism and social democracy. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had among his first cabinet ministers, socialists and big feudal landlords of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa/NWFP.
The farce of political crossbreeding is legitimised by the imposition of a cultural hegemony in the name of Islam. Any alternate cultural discourse that challenges the status quo narrative not only is discouraged but also is vehemently crushed.
The crossbred monsters called Pakistani political parties are a manifestation of a peculiar economic condition that emerges from the lack of ability and will of the Pakistani bourgeoisie to establish itself as an independent ruling class. This is not only because of its belated entry into the stage of capitalism but also because of its helplessness in leading a bourgeois revolution that would rid the country of feudalism, religious influence on the state as well as an ambitious military that has over the years become a serious stakeholder in the power game. It is because of this that the Pakistani bourgeoisie finds itself trapped in between two large markets, namely, China and India. This again is one of the reasons why the Pakistani ruling classes are holding tight to imperialism and consider it as their sole guarantor for a fair share in global trade. This guarantee comes with a price. The price is the sovereignty of Pakistan. Since the early days, the Pakistani ruling classes have been entirely dependent on the whims of imperialism in our region for economic and military aid and in turn have become a pawn in imperialist designs.
Several parties of the left have raised their voices against the imperialist intervention in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. However, they too are following a political programme based on social democracy and calls for left unity. What is needed is not a unity of left-wing personalities but unity among the working class and the peasantry.
These two classes lack revolutionary class-consciousness and are poorly organised. That is the main reason why our masses are seen desperately flocking behind liberal demagogues such as Imran Khan or religious demagogues like Tahir Ul Qadri. What is needed is a movement, a Tehreek, to build a consensus, Itefaq, of opinion, Rai, among the working classes and the peasantry. At the heart of such a consensus would be the realisation that unless they overthrow the yoke of feudalism and comprador capitalism, along with the suffocating hypocritical obscurantism of religious cultural hegemony, and free themselves from prejudice there can be no way out of the current crisis.
The writer is the Chairman of Tehreek e Itefaq e Rai (Movement for Consensus). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org